The Role of Environmental Monitoring in Hyperscale Data Centers

Annie Paquette
June 03, 2019

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One of the topics covered in Marc Cram’s sweeping update to the whitepaper “The Power of Hyperscale Computing” is a short section on the role of data center environmental monitoring.  Specifically, when a data center PDU is the primary method of rack data center power distribution.

Environmental monitoring is ubiquitous in most hyperscale data centers. Why?  It is due primarily to their reliance on both high ambient operating temperatures and incredible power densities within the IT racks.  Their goal is to achieve maximum energy efficiency. To conserve energy, most hyperscalers adjust the set point of their cooling systems to within just a few degrees of the highest possible inlet air temperature that the server and storage equipment can tolerate. This minimizes the amount of time the cooling systems operate, and subsequently the amount of energy expended on cooling.

As such, knowing the air temperature at every IT rack becomes crucial. If the set point is out of sync with the inlet temperatures, equipment can fail.  Managing at this level of data granularity presupposes accurate thermal modeling of the data center.  It also restricts the cooling system response to the bare minimum, such as opening a louver or floor vent close to the rack that is in danger of experiencing a thermal excursion. As mentioned, the cooling system response must be timely to prevent thermal runaway from occurring.

Numerous methods exist for environmental monitoring in the datacenter, including intelligent data center PDUs, such as those available from Server Technology. Since they reside within the IT rack, right at the source of most heat generation within the datacenter, the sensors supported by rack PDUs provide an economical means of providing real-time information.  This data is often more accurate than sensors mounted at the ceiling level or within the ductwork of the data center air handling systems.

Intelligent data center PDUs can also support the monitoring network by providing other rack-based data.  In addition to temperature data, intelligent PDUs can be outfitted with a variety of sensor types that collect additional information required for the management of the data center.  They can provide data on power usage.  While feedback on the operation of the cooling system is of utmost importance,  so is the physical security of the rack itself.

Adding more sensors and monitoring capability to an already intelligent PDU gives you more visibility into your racks.  Armed with knowledge about environmental conditions, your intelligent PDU can help you become more proactive in maintaining not just loads and power, but temperature, humidity and security. 

At Server Technology, we support Hyperscale data center users by supplying the intelligent data center PDUs that allow for localized, rack-based data center environmental monitoring. To learn more, check out our update to “The Power of Hyperscale Computing” whitepaper.

Hyperscale Best Practices: DC Power Distribution and New PDUs